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Three New Yorkers, all of whom consider as “non-binary” -meaning they don’t define themselves as male or female- are deeply outraged at how state agencies that handle welfare benefits.
According to The Associated Press (AP), “non-binary” New York residents filed a lawsuit against the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), the state health department, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York City Department of Social Services for not having a “gender X” option to sign up for programs.
The plaintiffs say they feel “discriminated” against” since public services, such as Medicaid, offer only “male” or “female” gender boxes on forms. They, despite biological evidence, argue that they are lying under oath when they are forced to check a box that is not “gender X.”
Jules Donahue, one of the three people who filed the lawsuit along with the Civil Liberties Union and Legal Services of the City of New York, commented that she was “forced to choose between M or F, male or female, as a gender marker, which really doesn’t align with how I express myself or feel inside. So that was particularly traumatic, especially during such a vulnerable time.”
Jaime Mitchell, a city resident co-candidate, said “Any time I need something as simple as food or to make a doctor’s appointment, I basically am forced to misgender myself, to be misgendered. And this takes a toll.”
An OTDA official told AP that “the gender marker is only for the agency’s internal computer system, not public documents, and that a multi-million dollar software upgrade will allow the additional gender option.”
The agency did not report how long the software upgrade would take, but noted that it “ensures the right access to services regardless of gender identity or expression.”
Demands of the lawsuit: adding the “gender X” option and training for “treating non-binary people”
To put things in context, New York is one of 18 states that grant legal recognition to people who identify as “non-binary,” according to the lawsuit. “In addition to birth certificates, the state said in a November court filing that it was modifying Department of Motor Vehicles computers to offer driver’s licenses with a gender X marker,” AP explained.
For this reason, the lawsuit explains that OTDA’s system is allegedly violating state laws and the state’s own Constitution. At the same time, it argues discrimination “on the basis of gender identity.”
AP reported that “The lawsuit demands that the state agency add “X” as a valid gender identity option in the benefits system, as well as updated guidance and training for social services staff on proper conduct when dealing with non-binary people.”
New York, which is one of the most progressive states in all of America, is something of a beacon for “inclusivity.” Its universities and institutions are so concerned about gender issues that there are even cases of discrimination against conservative students. For example, one education student even got suspended from his faculty for stating that “A man is a man, and a woman is a woman.”
Now, as it seems, this is not enough for people in the LGBT community, who believe that the “obsolete system” of the state of New York is discriminating against them and depriving them of their rights for not having the “X” option in their gender boxes.
Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón is a journalist at El American specializing in the areas of American politics and media analysis // Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón es periodista de El American especializado en las áreas de política americana y análisis de medios de comunicación.
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